Young partiers looking to cut loose at EDM raves find that they may be lethally cut instead by a serial killer posing as a drug dealer in Mollywood. With the party-centric horror thriller out now on VOD and Digital from Momentum Pictures, we caught up with director Morocco Vaughn in our latest Q&A feature to discuss the differences between helming his first feature-length film and directing music videos, shooting an action scene down the street from where the Chicago Bulls play, and the two movies that influenced his approach to the music and suspense in Mollywood.
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, Morocco, and congratulations on Mollywood! When did you first read Ken Hoyd’s screenplay for the film, and what made you want to bring it to life on screen?
Morocco Vaughn: I read it in the winter of 2016 going into 2017. The key thing that made me want to do this is that I didn’t see anything out there that was like this. When I read the plotline of a serial killer lurking in EDM raves I thought, Wow, I haven’t seen this film done before, so it would be great for me to explore this new territory.
You’ve previously worked as a cinematographer, but Mollywood marks your directorial debut. What are some of the biggest things that you learned from directing your first feature?
Morocco Vaughn: I learned that it’s worlds different from doing anything else. A music video is a music video, a commercial is a commercial, but a feature film is completely different. It is a marathon opposed to the other two being sprints. You have to concentrate on everything that exists. It’s like a band versus an orchestra. You need to get 50 people or more in unison with each other to complete a film, opposed to a few people doing a smaller project. I think that’s the biggest learning piece I took from this.
There are some massive, atmospheric party scenes involving an extensive cast of characters in Mollywood. Were there any particular challenges in directing the live music scenes with so many people?
Morocco Vaughn: Huge challenges, because you’re worried about sound and making sure that you can hear your actors’ voices. They might be mic’d up and we might have some booms, but if you have 100 people standing around them, even if they’re trying to be quiet, you’re still going to get lines that don’t come out crisply and there are other music problems. If you don’t have your music clear, you have people dancing to nothing. That was my biggest fear in trying to put together a scene. I was worried that people would be dancing to music that didn’t exist and it would come off as unrealistic on scene. I had to take some risks and let the music play, then re-record again to try to get the lines just so I could get people to really feel the beat and make sure it came off on screen the right way.
The killer in Mollywood poses as a drug dealer to get close to their victims. How did you set out to portray your film’s serial killer to make them as intriguing and scary as possible?
Morocco Vaughn: Oh man. The guy we casted, Micah [Fitzgerald], his nature is serious. When you see him or hear him, he is made to be a serial killer [laughs]. That is not dissing him. I hid him for a majority of the film, about halfway through you don’t see his face. I used objects to hide his face and had him turn away from the camera. I also used the lighting to make it dark around his face. I did this to add a level of mystery and intrigue so you didn’t know exactly who was doing this. You could feel his personality before you could see him. By the time you actually saw him, you felt like you already knew him.
Were you influenced or inspired by any other films, TV series, or books while making Mollywood?
Morocco Vaughn: Yes. I was inspired by Get Out. We had wrapped principal photography and that had come out that summer. Baby Driver is another film that inspired me. I wish I were the first to make it because of their use of music on screen. I would pick those two as influencers.
Looking back at your time on set, is there a favorite or memorable moment that stands out?
Morocco Vaughn: So many. My favorite moment would have to be the shooting scene under the bridge with Zach and Chase. I shot it up the street from the United Center where the Chicago Bulls play. To be able to shoot a movie down the street from your favorite sports team and to get to shoot guns in Chicago—that particular moment was when the kid inside of me came alive. I’d say that was my favorite moment from the film.
Ultimately, what do you hope viewers take away from Mollywood?
Morocco Vaughn: I want them to take away the dangerous elements that come from partying. Even though we might laugh and joke, this is a serious subject. We have the opioid epidemic, all of these different party drugs, and kids overdosing. I’d like for people to take drug use and the way we approach it seriously.
With Mollywood now on VOD and Digital from Momentum Pictures, what other projects do you have coming up that you’re excited about?
Morocco Vaughn: I have a project called Outside Looking In that I have co-written and am looking to bring to life. I also have a film called Crackers that I’m looking for a budget for. Those two projects are going to personify me as a director. Crackers deals with white-collared criminals who use credit card fraud to get rich in the inner city.
[Photo credit: Above photo of Morocco Vaughn is courtesy of Momentum Pictures.]